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Neil Clifton (1956-1986) : Represented Artist

Neil Clifton was born in Melbourne on 3rd February, 1956, and died on the 7th March 1986 in Heidelberg, Melbourne. He commenced studies in violin in Geelong in 1967, and at that time started composing, before receiving any formal training. These early works were 'musicals' and were successfully performed in Geelong in 1972 and 1973, and revived in 1982-83. The first of these works, First Impressions, was based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and the second wasa a loose adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata.

After a 'false start' studying mathematics and physics, Clifton finally decided upon a musical career and completed the B.Mus (Hons) at the University of Melbourne in 1980 with a double major in composition and musicology. His composition teachers at that time were brian Howard, peter Tahourdin and Barry Conyngham.

He began postgraduate study in 1981 with the assistance of a Commonwealth Postgraduate Research Award, studying with Peter Tahourdin and Justin Connolly. In the same year, he was a joint prize-winner in the Victoria State Opera's music theatre competition, along with Mark Foster and Peter Chaplin. The prize-winning work, Hunger to a libretto by the composer and based on the novella by Knut Hamsun, achieved considerable popular and critical success when it was performed in early 1982 at the Universal Theatre in Melbourne.

In 1983, Clifton was given a Composers' Fellowship by the Australia Council to enable him to continue his work as a composer, particularly in the areas of music theatre and vocal composition. During this period he composed Songs of a Child at Night for soprano and chamber ensemble. Early in 1983, he was also a fellowdhip holder at the 4th Sydney Summer School for Australian and New Zealand composers. He wrote Fantasies / Variations for orchestra with piano obbligato, for this occasion. The piece was recorded by the ABC Sinfonia and broadcast several times.

During 1982-83, Clifton also held conducting positions at the Geelong Orchestra and Monash University Orchestra.

In 1984, Clifton took up the position of Composer-in-residence with the Victoria State Opera. This particular project, assisted by funding from the Australia Council, was to produce a full-length opera based on Evelyn Waugh's novel The Loved One with a libretto by Nigel Triffit. The piece remained unfinished at the time of the composer's death, although nearly complete, and has not been performed to date.

Other of his last works included Sonnets to Orpheus, " ... an abstract meditation, using singers and a dancer, on the nature of art and death" on a text of Rilke.